Dec 19, 2011

By Associated Press,

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are kings of the AFC East — as usual.

With a 41-23 victory over Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos on Sunday, the Patriots wrapped up their ninth division crown in the 11 seasons Brady has been the starting quarterback

It’s a familiar spot for Bill Belichick’s bunch, and one the Patriots don’t take for granted.

“Never gets old,” defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. “You work so hard the whole year to get to just one step. That’s just one of them. To come out division champs, that’s awesome.”

Baltimore and Pittsburgh also secure playoff berths before they even took the field because of losses by others in the AFC. But the Ravens (10-4) later lost to the San Diego Chargers, meaning the Steelers (10-3) could take control of the AFC North with a win Monday night at San Francisco.

The Patriots (11-3) are in prime position to gain a first-round playoff bye or home-field advantage in the AFC, especially after South division winner Houston (10-4) lost to Carolina.

Four of the six playoff spots are set in the AFC, and the New York Jets (8-6) hold a tiebreaker edge over the Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) for the final wild-card spot — but there are plenty of teams still in the hunt. In the West, Tebow’s Broncos (8-6) lead the way, but everyone else — Oakland (7-7), San Diego (7-7) and Kansas City (6-8) — is still alive.

In the NFC, Green Bay (13-1) finally lost — falling 19-14 to the Chiefs — but need one more victory to clinch home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

“I personally always viewed the undefeated season as, really, just gravy,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “The goal was to get home-field advantage and win the Super Bowl. That’s what we discussed.”

The 49ers (10-3) already have won the West and are battling New Orleans (11-3), which leads the South, for the other first-round bye. The Saints have a two-game division lead over Atlanta and play the Falcons in New Orleans on Dec. 26.

The NFC East is still a bit muddled as Dallas (8-6) grabbed back the lead when it beat Tampa Bay on Saturday night and the Giants lost to Washington on Sunday. The Giants (7-7) can still win the division if they sweep their final two games, against the Jets and Cowboys. Philadelphia (6-8), which routed the Jets 45-19, also can win the division — but only if the Eagles win at Dallas and at home against Washington, and the Giants to lose to the Jets before beating the Cowboys.

“It feels good to still have a chance to even be considered in the playoff race,” Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said. “We’ve been through a lot, but we’re resilient.”


Chiefs 19, Packers 14

At Kansas City, the Chiefs rallied behind interim coach Romeo Crennel and new quarterback Kyle Orton to end the Packers’ pursuit of perfection.

Orton finished 23 of 31 for 299 yards in his first start for the Chiefs, who fired coach Todd Haley last Monday with the team having lost five of its last six games. The loss also ended the Packers’ 19-game winning streak.

Ryan Succop kicked four field goals and Jackie Battle had a short touchdown run with 4:53 left in the game for the go-ahead score.
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